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Friday, August 14, 2015

The Friday Ten: The ten essential PlayStation 4 indie titles


The PlayStation 4 is proving itself to be an indie powerhouse, with new games from small independent developers landing on the PlayStation Network every week.

While many would argue that these can't replace the big AAA blockbusters, these indie games nevertheless help to round out the console experience, providing players with a wide range of unique experiments to supplement the safer blockbuster stuff.

These experiments don't always work, but often they do. This week we're looking at ten of the finest indie games available on the PlayStation 4. These games are not published by a major publisher, and are the kind of games you might not hear about too much out there in the mainstream, but when you start playing them, you will quickly be glad that you discovered them.

You've probably got some favourite indie games of your own, so be sure to let us know what they are in the comments!

Submerged


Submerged is a beautiful, heartfelt game from a small Australian studio, with aesthetics that are right up there with what we see in the biggest studios. As we wrote in our review: "What impressed me most about Submerged is that it never tries to be more than its concept. It set out to be a simple narrative-driven and emotional experience with a strong environmental message, and it achieves just that."


PieceFall


For about the price of half a cup of coffee, PieceFall is a simple, elegant little puzzle game. Most impressively, though, is that it's a student project that was able to launch on the PlayStation 4 because Sony has worked hard to help encourage student developers. That in itself makes it worth supporting. And as we wrote in our review: "PieceFall is sold as a puzzle game, but it is much more than just that. It’s an experience that tells a story of repair."


Styx: Master of Shadows


This one pushes boundaries about what counts as an indie game, given that it is backed by a publisher, but I'm including Styx in here, because the publisher is a small one, and the development team behind it certainly approach their games as independent developers would. Styx: Master of Shadows is a classic stealth game, which strongly reminded me of the Thief games of old (which means it did a better job that that recent attempt to reboot Thief). It's laboured by its budget at times, but nonetheless it is well worth checking out for fans of the stealth genre.


Shantae: Risky's Revenge


2D platformers have traditionally been the area of expertise for Nintendo, but Shantae: Risky's Revenge on the PlayStation 4 puts some of the finest 2D platforming action around on Sony's powerhouse. As we wrote in our review: "The platforming is rock solid, and as I noted, I love the theme with a passion. I would like to see WayForward do something more narrative-heavy with Shantae, as I think she would be a spectacular lead in a RPG or similar, but as it stands this is my favourite 2D platformer series of all, and I'm glad to see that it's now on PlayStation too."


Pix The Cat


Of the many (many) attempts to rework Pac-Man or appropriate that approach to arcade action, Pix The Cat is one of the better efforts. Within its neon-drenched aesthetics, Pix The Cat is a simple, elegant little Pac-Man clone, with all the points, leaderboards and all the rest that retro arcade games come with. The difference here is that Pix The Cat is all about getting points before the time limit runs, where Pac-Man has those ghost things chasing you around.


Toren


This little game from Brazil blew us away, what with its poetic narrative, beautiful world, and elegant gameplay. As we wrote in our review: "Like the finest of foreign cinema, this game challenges how the wisdom behind blockbuster design would dictate a game should be put together. It's constrained by budget and, perhaps, a lack in confidence to go all the way and risk complete innovation, but it's a beautiful, emotive, and powerful experience, and it's going to be one of my games of the year."


Hand of Fate


Another indie hit from Australia, Hand of Fate is part card game, part dungeon crawler, part action RPG, and all class. As we noted in our review: "It is clear that the development team at Defiant are fans of early era Dungeons & Dragons, with everything in the game supporting a nostalgic love for that unique style of pulp fantasy. As a fan of that genre myself, I could not put Hand of Fate down."


Never Alone


Never Alone is an important game. On the surface it's a fairly simple but elegant 2D platformer. But then you start digging into the game, and then its real value becomes evident: this game is actually a representation of a culture that we don't hear about much, and as such it's more than just a game - it's an opportunity to learn something new and valuable. As we wrote in our review: "It makes me truly happy to see game developers creating high quality products such as Never Alone that push entertainment boundaries and demonstrate that games can be culturally important."


Transistor



A vibrant mix of noir and science-fiction, Transistor is a tactical RPG that you've never played before, and you may never play again. It's the kind of game that would simply not be possible without an independent studio's capability and willingness to take risks. Sometimes it fails. In this case it does not. As we wrote in our review: "Many call Supergiant Games a video game developer, but not me. I call it an artist and Transistor is its work of art. It starts with a oil painting still, filled with beauty, intrigue and mystery. What would happen if you could step inside?"


SteamWorld Dig


Last on our little list is a mix of Dig Dug, Mr. Driller, and a dash of Minecraft. SteamWorld Dig is a very simple game, but it offers up a decent challenge, a good sense of progression, and a really (really) slick art style. As we wrote in our review: "The game is ultimately over far too quickly for its own good, but that's the sign of a truly entertaining game; I simply wanted more."

And that's out list! What are some of your favourite indie games on your PlayStation 4? Let us know in the comments!

- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld
The Friday Ten: The ten essential PlayStation 4 indie titles
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